• Photo: Binu Mathew / shutterstock

Plan Your Punta Cana Vacation

As the sun rises in the Dominican Republic, Punta Cana awakens to the lapping ocean—clear, unspoiled blue brushing up against the pristine stretches of sugar-white sand, with swaying coco palms in the backdrop. A thriving tourism industry fuels the region, and with such plentiful ingredients as sun, sand, and sea, it's no wonder.

The larger area known as Punta Cana encompasses Cabeza de Torres, Playa Bávaro, and continues all the way around the peninsula to Playa de Uvero Alto. Development continues in Galerias Punta-Cana Village, a shopping center that is a draw for visitors from around the area. A Four Points by Sheraton just opened across from the area and is the only "airport" hotel in the region. Five minutes from the village on a gorgeous stretch of beach within the Punta Cana Group’s domain, is the new (2014) Westin Punta Cana Resort & Club. Characteristic of this American chain, it is an upscale, non–all inclusive property.

This stretch between Club Med, the Westin, and the Puntacana Resort & Club is one of the most beautiful. Farther up the coast, Playa El Cortecito is more how life used to be, with fishermen bringing in their catch, and it is where the wild and crazy restaurant Capitán Cook's is located. Farther north along the coast is a stretch of beach known as Arena Gorda, literally "fat sand," and Bavaro. About 20 miles (32 km) from Punta Cana International Airport, it's an area brimming with coconut groves and the location of many resorts. Each has its own strip of sand with rows of chaises longues, and most of these hotels will grant outsiders day passes for a fee. Macao is a pastoral village, but its public beach is no longer a good option, having first been taken over by four-wheeler excursions and now dominated by the huge Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana.

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